Welcome Villager, Johnny Wilson.
I met Johnny at UC Santa Cruz in 2000. As a fellow surfer and ecologist, we became fast friends. We spent our senior quarter traveling the state of California with an amazing group of students, led by my agroecology mentor Steve Gliessman. Basically, a bunch of radical thinkers living and cooking together following “mountain time”. It was a life changing experience.
We’ve had many of these, throughout the years. Last year, I was fortunate enough to recruit Johnny and family to lead our farm efforts. It’s been an honor to collaborate and grow together.
What’s your role in the village?
I help run the farm.
Tell us about a memory in your life that shaped you becoming a farmer?
Growing up as a kid in Orange County, I have very distinct memories about running around in the orange groves along Jeffrey Rd in Irvine and visiting what used to be the 4H Farm on the UCI campus which was just behind my house… I remember the smells of the oranges blooming and the animals at the 4H.. My mother always gardened at home (not food) and instilled an appreciation of beauty and nature on a daily basis.
However I really got turned on to agriculture in college through a surfing buddy of mine (Evan) and through the Environmental Studies program at UCSC. It’s there where I remember learning a lot of our environmental and social problems (if not all) come down to how we as humans produce food; nitrification of rivers and oceans due to run off of chemical fertilizers, deforestation for annual crop production, and excessive tillage and fossil fuel use that emits more carbon into the atmosphere. I wanted to be a part of the solution, and I felt that getting into organic agriculture was a good way to live a life that provided an alternative to the current trajectory of destruction and loss of biodiversity on the planet. Another way is possible!
How and where do you find inspiration?
All over. Nature, the ocean, my kids and family.. My coworkers. The farm team is amazing, they show up everyday, work all day in the sun, rain, wind, whatever.. keep smiles on their faces and never complain. Then go work a second job at night so they can provide for their families.. Truly incredible.
Also lately though I’ve been really inspired by the amount of interest and community engagement that we’re finding here at the center. People are really hungry for connection to basic elements of life, food, community, family. I’m happy to be a part of a community here at the center that is striving to provide that for our region.
Tell us about a moment when you experienced the power of community?
I’ve experienced many in the last couple years, unfortunately due to some pretty tragic events, but they always have a silver lining. I was living in Sonoma County over the last 5 years and wildfires devastated our region. I was working for a restaurant at the time and even though we closed down, the kitchen and farm team sprung into action and started cooking hundreds of meals a day for evacuees and folks that lost their homes..And now during the pandemic and subsequent shutdowns in the spring, I’m really proud of the team at the center for doing what they are doing during the crisis..Providing nourishment for those who need it, staying open and showing up to work everyday knowing the work that they are doing is so essential for local families.
What’s your favorite meal to make?
Saikyo Miso Hot Pots in my donabe cooker.